They immediately gravitated to the pool at the hotel because the children loved water, Ms. Coleman said.
“I caught myself sneaking off to get in the hot tub, and here come those little bodies, coming in there with me,” Ms. Coleman said. “They’re like, ‘Oh this feels so good, this feels so good.’ I said, ‘Get back in the kiddie pool.’”
They ate at the Golden Corral, where Ms. Coleman told her children they could eat as much as they wanted. She plied them with indulgent treats like cotton candy and rainbow sherbet.
The Colemans decided to ride the duck boat because it seemed like just the type of thing Ms. Coleman’s oldest son, Reece, who was autistic, would enjoy.
“We have to do stuff that’ll keep him, where he can jump up and be entertained or he likes to ride,” she said. “He loves water and he likes to ride. We were like, that’ll work out for everybody.”
What Ms. Coleman and her family did not know was that duck boats have a history of safety issues, with the N.T.S.B. ordering operators, including the one here in Branson, to make safety improvements after 13 people were killed when one sank in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1999.
Before leaving for the boat tour, Ms. Coleman said, someone at Ride the Ducks, the tour company, said that because of the storm warning, they would do the lake part of the tour before the road portion.
The Colemans planned to go to dinner after the duck boat ride. Instead, after a vigorous struggle in the water during which she said she gave up and just let her body float, Ms. Coleman was left to wonder what if.